Govt keeps option of new law open and seeks to broaden appointment process
GN Bureau | November 18, 2015
The supreme court has begun hearing on the suggestions of the people from all walks of society as to how the transparency and accountability can be improved in the collegium system while the law ministry's website has been flooded with suggestions on improving the collegium system of judges appointing judges in higher judiciary. Almost 3,500 representations have been posted on the website.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that 3,500 representations have come in pursuance to the notice on the ministry's website soliciting inputs on improving the revived collegium system.
The court had in a 4:1 decision struck down the government's move to create a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) with part representation from the government and civil society to replace the collegium system of judges selecting judges. While the court said the NJAC would hurt judicial independence which was a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, it sought suggestions to make the collegium process more transparent and accountable.
Interestingly, the government has suggested that the president, prime minister and attorney general should have the power to suggest names to the collegium for appointment as judges to the top court as a way of improving the system's functioning. The government suggested that the process could be broadbased by seeking names from the governor, chief minister and the state advocate general in case of appointments to a high court.
Under the existing collegium system, only the judges who are part of the collegium (the Chief Justice of India and four other senior judges in SC, and four judges including the state chief justice at high courts) can suggest names.
Importantly, the government has also kept its option open on bringing in a law to give the executive a say over the entire process.
The Modi government's suggestion to the court has come by way of the AG's submissions in the case, which would come up again for hearing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the National Lawyers' Campaign For Judicial Transparency And Reforms has said that the time for the public to submit their suggestions and representations be extended as the time given by the apex court was very short.
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